People often ask if it bothers me that my artwork doesn’t last. Working in a medium as ephemeral as balloons has always served as a reminder to me how important it is to pay attention to transient things while we have them. And I’m reminded now that even life is temporary.
Royal Sorell was one of the most creative and influential artists the balloon industry has seen. In the 20 years I knew and worked with Royal, he was always an incredibly creative entertainer, artist, and craftsman. He was a mentor to so many artists, including me, sharing his knowledge, ingenuity, and experience with everyone that would listen (and quite often with those that wouldn’t). While he was recognized most for his balloon work over the last few decades, his skills went far beyond that, into clowning, magic, and mime.
I had the opportunity to work with him on numerous large projects. He was my partner when we led a crew to build a world record-setting sculpture of two soccer players in Belgium. A year later, we worked together on a piloted flying octopus that could be seen over Lake Ontario. There were others over the years that we did together. We taught classes together. His drive for excellence led to many long nights, and always for good reason. As long as there was time before a project was to be displayed, he believed that time should be used to make the project better; sleep could come later when there wasn’t work to be done.
Royal had an amazing impact on so many people, and he will continue to for years to come just through the body of work he produced for all of us. I will miss him dearly. And I will miss our long phone calls. He was the only mime that was ever able to keep me on the phone for hours.